Chile is located along the Ring of Fire, a huge chain of volcanoes that circles the Pacific. But until this week, the Calbuco volcano in Llanquihue National Reserve hadn’t been active for more than 40 years. That changed on Wednesday, as the volcano exploded in a strikingly beautiful fashion. And the evening sky made the view even more spectacular:
But nature’s angry glory isn’t all time-lapse videos and breathless tweets. Anthony Esposito at Reuters reports that the volcano, which last erupted in 1961, could pose a threat to surrounding areas:
“In this situation, with the eruption column so high, the main risk is that it collapses, falls due to gravity because of its own weight and causes a pyroclastic flow,” Gabriel Orozco, a vulcanologist with Chile’s geological and mining service, said on local TV.
A pyroclastic flow is a superheated current of gas and rock that can destroy nearly everything in its path and travel at speeds upwards of 200 to 300 kilometers per hour.
Calbuco is what is known as a stratovolcano—a volcano comprised of multiple layers, or strata, of ash, pumice, lava and other substances. Stratovolcanoes are steep and their eruptions can be extremely hazardous, posing the threat of ash clouds, dangerous lahars (mudflows) and high-velocity rocks called “volcanic bombs” that fly through the air at hundreds of miles per hour. The AP reports that authorities have evacuated about 4,000 people from surrounding cities and cancelled flights to the area.
While Chilean residents await the fallout of the explosion, the world is watching, too. In fact, the cloud can even be seen from space: